How to Pick a Paralegal Program near Paradise Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Paradise Valley AZ and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Paradise Valley homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into consideration as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Paradise Valley AZ with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a Paradise Valley AZ paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career in Paradise Valley AZ as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies in the profession are:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- National Association of Legal Assistants
- National Association for Legal Professionals
By graduating with a certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Paradise Valley AZ.
Paralegal Online Degrees
Online paralegal programs have become more available and can be a good alternative for students in Paradise Valley AZ searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing Paradise Valley AZ area schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical issues to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Paradise Valley AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Paradise Valley AZ paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Paradise Valley AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those schools that are within your Paradise Valley AZ local area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Paradise Valley AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Paradise Valley AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Paradise Valley AZ?
Paradise Valley, Arizona
Paradise Valley is a small, affluent town in Maricopa County, Arizona. The town is known for its luxury golf courses, shopping, and restaurant scene. According to the 2010 census, the population of the town was 12,820. Despite the town's relatively small area and population compared to other municipalities in the Phoenix metropolitan area, Paradise Valley is home to eight full-service resorts, making it one of Arizona's premier tourist destinations. It is also known for expensive real estate.
It should not be confused with Paradise Valley Village, an official municipal designation, in northeast Phoenix. For instance, Paradise Valley Community College, Paradise Valley High School, Paradise Valley Hospital, Paradise Valley Mall, and Paradise Valley Golf Course are all located several miles to the north of the town, in Phoenix. The town's name along with all the other various entities bearing the same name comes from the expansive area known as Paradise Valley, that spreads from north of the Phoenix mountains to Cave Creek and Carefree on the north and the McDowell Mountains to the east.
The Paradise Valley Unified School District is one of the largest in the state, though like many other institutions with the name Paradise Valley, it refers to the Phoenix village, and not to the town.
After the initial European settlement, Paradise Valley was first used for cattle grazing. In the 1880s, when the land was being surveyed so it could be developed into agricultural lots, the name "Paradise Valley" first came into use, being given by surveyors from the Rio Verde Canal Company and its manager at the time, Frank Conkey. According to the official town website, this name may have been chosen due to the abundance of spring wildflowers and palo verde trees. Mainly an agricultural area during the 1800s and the first half of the 1900s, the area began to be settled after World War II, on large, one- to five-acre lots for which it became known.
Find the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Paradise Valley AZ
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Paradise Valley residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Paradise Valley AZ.
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